The big one! 19 miles from Inveroran to Kinlochleven.
On Thursday morning, I was sorry to leave the tranquil isolation of our lochside retreat in Inveroran. Our room faced the trail we had descended on route to the hotel the day before, so we had been able to spot other walkers over the course of the afternoon and evening with a sense of satisfaction that we had reached our destination. Later on that night, a herd of deer had also visited. It was incredibly peaceful.
After a relaxing night, we were up bright and early to kick of the penultimate section of our journey. We made a tentative start as I eased myself into the steady pace that would take us to the rough halfway mark of Kingshouse by lunchtime.
My walking poles (along with a sturdy brace) had worked wonders the previous day, taking enough extra pressure off my right knee to walk more comfortably on the downhill. I had never used poles before, but found these to be light and reliable over the days to come. A positive addition to my kit for long distance walking.
Stepping out onto the wilds of Rannoch Moor, I was once again in awe of our surroundings. Rannoch Moor is a place of stories, or at least it deserves to be. A wide expanse of rugged moorland, dominated by looming snow-capped mountains; it could easily become fearsome in inclement weather.
As it was, we walked our path in the glare of the sun. Reaching Kingshouse, the hotel bar provided welcome refreshment but still did not quite prepare me for the climb up the Devil’s Staircase and long descent into Kinlochleven that was still to come.
The Devil’s Staircase itself is a zig-zag path that makes a steady climb to the highest point of the West Highland Way, at around 550m. If not for the heat and distance already traveled, I think I would have found it a lot easier. As it was, I felt the need to break into my energy snacks as we neared the top.
The final descent into Kinlochleven was particularly hard on the knees. You see the village a fair way before you get there, as the path winds around the coniferous hillside providing misleading glances of buildings through the trees. I was so glad to reach the Blackwater Campsite and sprawl out in our micro-hobbit hut! If I were naming these posts in a less formulaic fashion, this one would definitely be, ‘It’s a long way to Kinlochleven…’